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For our local history series, Sense of Place, we bring you stories that explore how the history of our region has formed the character of our culture here in the Ozarks. One important element of that culture is, of course, music. In this installment, KSMU’s Emma Wilson takes us on a trip to the Opry…the Oldfield Opry.
If you drive south of Springfield, about 10 miles southeast of Ozark, you may stumble across a small community named Oldfield. If you’ve been there, you know it’s not exactly a booming metropolis, but every Saturday night, there’s always one parking lot that is packed to the gills.
[Sound: “Hello everyone and welcome to the Oldfield Opry!” and music begins]
The Oldfield Opry is a weekly country, bluegrass, and gospel music show that’s been a staple of the Oldfield community for almost 35 years. It first got started as a regular jam session in a small out-building owned by one of the band member’s parents. Ever since, it has drawn large crowds coming from all over the region and beyond. Hank Thompson is one of the four original members, the only one at the show the night I visited.
“We [were] just practicing and people started coming from all around. We had to start putting more chairs in. It was a full house so that’s why we’re over here now.”
In the late 1980s, it was so full, so regularly, they decided to construct a new building. George Arnold has been coming to the Opry for more than 20 years. He says that the show was so treasured by the community that they were able to pay off the cost of materials within the year through fundraising, and all of the labor was donated. Arnold makes the trip from Galena every week.
“It was really great [to] help build all of it because everybody worked together.”
[Sound: The Blonde and the Grey]
“They asked me to fill in until they could find another one. Well, I filled in and I’m still filling in, they never did look for one, I don’t think.”
That’s Eddie Goins describing how he became the bass player for the house band in 2000. He’s also the M.C. and started coming to the music party in the 1980s.
[Sound: Goins as M.C. “I hope you’re having a good time, d id you enjoy the pre-show?”]
“The regulars that come every week, we’re all kind of like one big family. It really is. And we don’t have the same band members every week, there’s about four of us that are here every week and the rest of them rotate,” says Goins.
And once a month, the Opry features a local band in a “pre-show.” There are several weekly features like birthday and anniversary announcements accompanied by the appropriate tune. And other variety show elements like a clogging song—there’s often a clogger or two in the audience—and, of course, the obligatory joke segment…
[Sound: Goins, “Did you know that the number one problem in our country is apathy?” Thompson, “Who cares?” (Followed by laughter and music.)]
“And during the second half of the show we’ll have guests come up and perform. We’ve got a sign-up sheet, looks like we’ve already got 10 or 12 guests signed up tonight to come up and do a song.”
[Sound: Guest performance]
Even on the dreary night that I went to Oldfield, the house is packed. Around 200 old theater seats in rows are placed strategically in the small metal building. It’s one large room, but it feels cozy and smells like popcorn and pie. Goins says many folks come eat the brisket or hotdogs from the concession stand and socialize before the show starts at 7:00. D.J. Robertson and her husband both volunteer at the Opry. On this night, she’s working at the concession stand—that’s popcorn popping in the background.
“It’s family friendly there’s not an admission charge so its donations only. A lot of the people that come are older folks and this is their entertainment for the week, it’s the way they get out and socialize with their neighbors.”
Eddie Goins says the appeal of the music show survives in its friendly atmosphere.
“I think it’s because we just all come and have fun. You can tell we don’t have a polished, rehearsed show like you’d go to Branson and see. We never know what the next person’s going to do. It’s really informal and I think the crowd likes that.”
For KSMU’s Sense of Place, I’m Emma Wilson.
If you’re interested in attending a show at the Oldfield Opry, you can find more information at their facebook page: www.facebook.com/pages/Oldfield-Opry/200834833052
The show happens every Saturday at 7:00pm, unless there is a pre-show (that begins at 5:45, typically, and you can find specific information about those events on the aforementioned facebook page). To get to the Oldfield Opry from Springfield follow these directions: http://g.co/maps/r6zwm. (It is southeast and you can get there by heading south on Highway 65, turning east on MO-14, and continuing on to MO-125 S.